Uncertainty for nurses at a Kent hospital as junior doctors are moved out

Nurses at a hospital in Kent face uncertainty as more than half its junior doctors are moved to other sites.  
Kent and Canterbury Hospital sign

Nurses at a hospital in Kent face uncertainty as more than half its junior doctors are moved to other sites.  

Kent & Canterbury's difficulties stem from a lack of medical consultants Photo: Alamy

Some inpatient services at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in Canterbury are expected to move to William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate within three months.

The changes were imposed on East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust when Health Education England raised concerns about the training of junior doctors in Canterbury and the lack of permanent consultants to supervise trainees in medical specialties. Forty-two of the hospital’s 76 trainees will be moved.

Moves to other sites

Nurses working in the affected services might be asked to move to the trust’s other sites  – a journey of more than 15 miles to Ashford and more than 20 to Margate – or remain deployed in the hospital. Managers say they are still deciding who will be needed where.

The changes will include acute medical, stroke and cardiology inpatients. The hospital’s urgent care centre (UCC) will only deal with minor injuries and around 30 people a day who would previously have arrived at the UCC by ambulance will now go to Ashford or Margate. ICU capacity might also be affected, although the hospital will still have surgical patients and will need to retain ICU facilities for them.

Effects on staff and patients

RCN senior regional offer for Kent Hamza Aumeer said he expected to attend an emergency meeting with the trust to discuss the impact on staff.

'We are concerned about the removal of this number of junior doctors and the potential major impact this will have on services, staff and our members.

'We also have reservations about the capacity of the other sites to cope with the influx of more patients and whether they will be able to service Canterbury patients adequately.

An uncertain time

He added: 'We are in close contact with the trust to ensure we can assess the workforce plans as they are developed. It is an uncertain time for our members and nursing staff and we would urge anyone who is concerned to contact the RCN so we can support them.”

Simon Bolton, Unison regional organiser for Kent, added he thought around 200 staff could be affected in total. Unison would expect the trust to cover any additional travel costs and travelling time, he said.

'Priority is patient safety'

Trust chief executive Matthew Kershaw said: ‘Keeping patients safe and properly looked after is our top priority. We know the hospital is safe now but we are making careful plans for what we now have to do in the best interests of patients.’

 The trust says the moves will be temporary. However, the sustainability and transformation plan for Kent and Medway envisages that one hospital in East Kent would become a centre for planned care, with a primary care-led UCC.